Saroukhan the Armenian-Egyptian cartoonist and caricaturist
Alexander Hagop Saroukhan -born on the 1st of October 1898 in Ardanoush a town which at that time was part of Batumi province, one of the administrative regions of Trans-Caucasia, under the Russian Empire, he was Hagop Zadig Saroukhanian’s third child succeeding two daughters.
His father worked as a middle-class fabric trader in Ardanoush, and moved in 1900 to Batumi (the capital of the province) which was booming at that time due to its being the main passage of Baku petroleum to the external world, and naturally, Hagop started working in the field of oil trade.
Saroukhan was an Armenian-Egyptian cartoonist and caricaturist whose drawings have appeared in several Arabic and international newspapers and magazines. He is considered one of the best and most famous caricaturists in the Arab world.
Saroukhan’s starting point
In 1908 at age ten he moved to the Ottoman Empire where he studied languages. With his brother Levon Saroukhan, he published a weekly magazine-
Both of them started their 1st drawing attempts at home when still children, encouraged by their father who himself did not have the talent at all. Later on, Alexander was enrolled in Russian primary school in the area, where under the guidance of his Russian art teacher he developed his imagination.
This teacher became Alexander’s 1st real inspirer and encourager, filling his mind and soul with the love of art- Later on, he worked as a translator of Russian, Turkish, and English languages in the British army.
At the same time, his caricatures were published in Armenian newspapers and magazines, and notably in the satiric paper "Gavrosh." In 1922 he left Turkey for Europe and studied at the Brussels Graphic Art Academy where he excelled and finished his studies in two years instead of the usual four.
The turning point and moving to Egypt
Abd el-Qader el-Shenawy was an Egyptian intellectual from a wealthy family in Mansoura, who liked journalism. He had gone to Vienna to study printing and was planning to establish a printing house and publish a satirical and humorous newspaper or magazine in Cairo. During that time he was searching for a highly-qualified cartoonist, who would go with him to Egypt and illustrate the pages of his future publication with cartoons. The materialization of Abd el-Qader’s ambitions was based mainly on his grandfather’s wealth that he was planning to inherit after his death.
One day Abd el-Qader heard about Saroukhan, the Armenian artist who was drawing caricatures during beaks. On the 15th of March 1924 he got acquainted with Saroukhan; a date which the latter always remembered as being one of the most important milestones of his life. He immediately discovered Saroukhan’s talent and invited him to Egypt, making big promises that were never materialized. However, Saroukhan saw Abd el-Qader as an honest and decent person, which he was, yet his misfortune and difficult life conditions were major impediments to the realization of his dreams and his promises to Saroukhan.
In 1924 Saroukhan moved to Egypt with more than 125 pieces of his artwork. His drawings were published in a satiric magazine called "Armenian Cinema".
He presented some of his works at an exhibition in Cairo and then in Alexandria. Through those exhibitions, he met Egyptian journalist Mohamed El-Tabii. Through cooperation, they both became the most important and influential journalists in Egypt for 20 years. Saroukhan worked as a caricaturist for the widely circulated Rose el-Yusuf magazine where El-Tabii was the editor.
Saroukhan’s drawing of Rose el-Yusuf was his first to appear on the cover of the magazine in March 1928. From then on, Saroukhan became known as a ‘political' caricaturist.
His character "El Masri Efendi" also helped establish his fame. However, because of a dispute between Rose (aka Fatima) El-Yusuf and Mohamad el-Tabii, Saroukhan left the magazine and joined the staff of another Egyptian well-known paper, "Akher Sa’a" (Last Hour), which el-Tabii published until 1946.
In 1955 Saroukhan became an Egyptian citizen after getting Egyptian nationality.
When Mohamed El-Tabii sold "Akher Sa'a" to "Akhbar El Yom", Saroukhan moved to the new newspaper and worked for it until his death on January 1, 1977, at the age of 78.
Saroukhan’s works in brief
Other than his cartoons published on the pages of Rosa el-Yousef, Akhbar el-Yom, and Akher Sa’a, He drew thousands of cartoons and caricatures in different journals which are listed here, based on different available references.
He established a French-language humor magazine "La Caravane," published between 1942 and 1945. He also contributed to Egypt's foreign-language press, with cartoons in "La Presse Egyptienne", "Image" and Armenian daily Arev. He had many exhibitions in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Romania.